American Mavericks

Listening Room: Varèse

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Program Notes: About Amériques

“We may say that Amériques is the first intrinsically American musical work produced, the first symphony in which we truly hear the voice of America today.” – Composer Dane Rudhyar

Rudhyar called the opening motive “Ariadne’s thread” to describe the way it appears and reappears throughout the work. How would you describe the nature of this theme?

Varese: Ameriques Opening by SF Symphony


As the piece progresses, there are new timbres and ideas woven into the texture.

Varese: Ameriques at 2:30 by SF Symphony


At moments the music evokes the brittle rhythms and obsessive motives of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Varese: Ameriques at 11:10 by SF Symphony


“(America) meant the unknown. And in this symbolical sense — new worlds on this planet, in outer space, and in the minds of men — I gave the title signifying ‘Americas’ to the first work I wrote in America.”

Amériques combines Varèse’s futurist leanings with passages that evoke Stravinsky-esque primitivism. How does the combination of these two impulses help produce the sense of “the unknown”?